Home » Book » THE STORY OF THE ORCHESTRA BY ROBERT LEVINE

THE STORY OF THE ORCHESTRA BY ROBERT LEVINE

1431814266Subtitle: Listen While You Learn About the Instruments, the Music and the Composers Who Wrote the Music!

This really fine book would make a great learning tool for families homeschooling and for anyone who wants to introduce their children to classical music and an orchestra’s instruments.  The CD coincides with the book by sharing the type of music discussed as well as samples of each instrument.  I come from a musical background of playing the clarinet and bassoon in high school along with learning piano during my early elementary ages and guitar as an adult.  I don’t play any of them now but I love music so this book delights me.  To know that such a tool exists made my day when I found it.   If I were homeschooling or teaching a classroom full of young children, I would use this great book and CD.

The colorful illustrations are a delight.  Each page is filled with a variety of pictures.  Searching and discovering brings a different kind of fun while learning so much.

I will give you some of the inner workings of this book…BUT not all, I promise!!  There is just too much!!  The Table of Contents gives me a board from which to jump off into this sea of music:

Table of Contents
Orchestra Bob is a “classical music expert,” as he calls himself, and is our “guide to the wonderful world of the orchestra.”  He shows up throughout the book to let us know when to play each track of the accompanying 70-minute CD.

PART I: THE COMPOSERS
A short history of each composer and a history of the particular period from which that composer lives dovetails throughout this section of the book.  A few funny stories of some of the composers are interspersed here.  The book does not touch on every composer we might wish had been included, but there are so many and this is a book for children.  The idea is to keep their interest.  This book is an excellent starting place from which to leap into other well-known composers.

Each period has music (on the CD) to illustrate the type composed during that era.  I list only a few of the many that the CD offers:

Baroque Period
1600-1750
Vivaldi – a part of “Four Seasons”
Bach – “1st Prelude from ‘Well-Tempered Clavier'”

Classical Music Era
1770-1830
Haydn – “Symphony No. 101” or “The Clock”
Mozart – “2nd Movement of ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik'”
Beethoven – “1st Movement of 5th Symphony”
“Last Movement of 9th Symphony”

Romantic Era
1805-1910
Diagram of Orchestra seating arrangement
Wagner – “Ride of the Valkyries”
Brahms – “Hungarian Dance”
Mahler – “Symphony No. 4”

Modern Era
DeBussy – “Arabesque No. 1”
Stravinsky – “The Rite of Spring”
Schoenberg, Gershwin, Copland, Bernstein – no track but brief information

PART II: THE ORCHESTRA INSTRUMENTS
Details of each instrument include names of each part of that instrument and what the instrument is made from with an illustration alongside.  Music of each particular type of instrument are featured on the CD.  Again, this is only a partial listing:

String Section

Examples: Bartok’s “Concerto for Viola and Orchestra,” Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” and Saint-Saens “Carnival of Animals”

Woodwind Section

Examples: Bach’s “Suite No. 2 for Flute, Strings and Basso,” Albinoni’s “Sinfonia in G Major for Two Oboes,” and Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (bassoon)

Brass Section

Examples: Haydn’s “Concerto for Trumpet in E Flat,” Mozart’s “Horn Concerto No. 1” (French Horn)

Percussion Section

Examples: Schedrin”s “Carmen Suite, Section Changing of the Guard,” Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 4”

Keyboard Instruments

It is explained that there is usually not a keyboard section in an orchestra, but a piano, an organ, or an harpsichord are often featured in one or more pieces in a concert.
Examples: Bach’s “Toccato and Fugue in D Minor” (for organ or harpsichord), Beethoven’s “2nd Movement – Pathetique Sonata” (piano)

The Conductor
The conductor is introduced as the person who leads the orchestra.  “Most composers were also conductors.”  In this section, the patterns of directing the various beats are given to encourage  practicing and getting to know how music is written.  Some fun may be had here.

I know this is a lot of information.  As a music-loving person, I think that this book is a wonderful teaching tool because of its layout, the fun and colorful illustrations, and the way the CD brings each composer and instrument to life in ways that just reading about the instruments or type of music could not duplicate alone.  This is a $20.00 book with CD, but there are discounted copies available across the internet.

Reading Level: 8 – 13 Years

Author
Robert Levine is an internationally known classical music and opera critic, a writer whose work has appeared in dozens of publications. He was the co-editor of Tower Records’ Classical Pulse! Magazine.   He has been Senior Editor of ClassicsToday.com, a worldwide web-site devoted to classical music. He is the author of many of the texts in the Black Dog Opera Library, as well as Maria Callas – A Musical Biography, and Weep, Shudder, Die – A Guide to Loving Opera. He lives in New York City.

Illustrator
Meredith Hamilton
From Mrs. Hamilton’s website:
“My illustration tools include everything from copperplate pen nibs and French sepia ink to Photoshop. My work revolves around conveying information visually, whether it be in the form of a mobile app or an illustration for a children’s book.
“In 2012 I co-founded BumpBump Books, which makes apps for mobile devices.  My ongoing series “A Child’s Introduction to…”
(Black Dog & Leventhal Publishing) has received both Moonbeam and Parent’s Choice Awards. Formerly an Art Director of Information Graphics at Newsweek, I have an MFA in Visual Journalism from the School of Visual Arts, and an AB in Comparative Literature from Brown University ….and oh yes, three children.” 
You can find her wonderful art @ http://meredithhamilton.com/index.html

Book Information

  • ISBN-13: 9781579121488
  • Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/1/2000
  • Edition description: Book & CD
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 10.31 (w) x 10.31 (h) x 0.58 (d)

On 5-16-2015, I originally reviewed this especially fine book!

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5 thoughts on “THE STORY OF THE ORCHESTRA BY ROBERT LEVINE

  1. Looks like a great book. Another musically inclined book great for home schoolers is Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band which pays homage to the Jazz Age.

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  2. We love this book! We included it in a music theory class a couple years ago, and it really helped my littles get the orchestra straight in their heads. In fact, I took them to see the Nutcracker this Christmas, and they were just as interested in the orchestra pit as the stage! Great recommendation. 🙂

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  3. This sounds great! I play clarinet and piano and I think it is so important to introduce children to classical music. This sounds like a brilliant tool to help with that. Visiting from Literacy Musing Mondays.

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